Saturday, November 22, 2014

DesigningVashti Lotus Yarns at the 12 Month Mark

Hi! I have updates about my crochet blogs: 
1. You're at my oldest blog, where I've been posting a series about becoming a yarn company as a crochet designer. Below is the 6th installment in that series. 
2. I don't want you to miss the posts at my newer Designing Vashti blog! I'm trying several things with them and learning how WordPress blogs work. Recent topics: a stitch pattern and its Tunisian crochet version side by side; how I added picot lace to a sympathy card; and overflow from newsletter issuesPlease explore and let me know what you think! (I'm working up to something in the near future...) 
3. At my Crochet Pattern Companion blog I continue to post crochet how-tos for my crochet patterns. Recently: Five different blocking methods compared, and tweaks for crocheting into love knots. 
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I first posted about becoming a yarn company one year ago!

A gazillion yards of DV Lotus yarn! (These are giant cones)
What an amazing year. I remember posting halfway through that the experience has a lot in common with the first year of being a new parent. It's a vivid memory because I didn't realize it until I sat down to blog about Lotus that day. The realization has helped me ever since! Putting words to feelings is a powerful thing.

This is the sixth post in this series. I'm surprised a whole year has gone by, and this new post causes me to notice it LOL. My next reaction is that I have "only" six posts, and yet I also feel proud of having a six-post series. 

Basically it means that every other month I took a moment to check in and reflect on this new experience. This seems like a healthy rhythm for this type of product startup to me. When my son was under a year old, I was too crazy-busy to even think of reflecting on it every other month.

Two changes since the last post: 
FREE SHIPPING to all US addresses, and yarn in more put-ups! 

The free shipping thing
It's the solution to a pressure that I see now was building all year as yarn orders steadily increased. I use a full-featured shopping cart platform, but until this year I only had downloadable items. Configuring it for a mix of products and shipping options is so much simpler with a site-wide free shipping policy. 
These li'l Lotus Snacks remind me of cupcakes.
Each packs 85 yds.

What a relief that decision was. I've wanted to have free shipping all along anyway. (I was initially nervous because most other yarn sites don't offer it, or only in a limited way.) As a shopper I love free shipping!

"Put-ups" 
This refers to the variety of ways a yarn can be wound or packaged: cones, pull-ballsskeins, hanks, sausage skeins, reels, cards; by weight (commonly 1.75 oz/50 g or 3.5 oz/100 g) or by the yard/meter
Lotus color sample pack.

Folks, the put-up decision is a big deal for a company and I'm realizing it deserves a separate post! (That's me making a mental note.) 

Over this past year I've come to love the freedom I have to offer Lotus in several put-ups. For decades I've crocheted a gazillion different kinds of projects, from tiny (jewelry charms) to massive (three-stranded blankets). Ideally I want to buy a small amount of yarn to make a tiny thing, and for giant things I'd want a cone (unless I'm doing portable motifs). Not only do I want to save by buying in quantity, I just can't stand weaving in more yarn ends than necessary.

I finally figured out a Designingvashti way to do cones :-)  so those will be up on the site next. 

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This post is part of a series about what it's like to start my own yarn company, as a crochet designer. Here's the first post, where you can also see a list of the other ones in this series.
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Thursday, September 04, 2014

My Lotus Yarn in Magazines: What It's Like!

Pin-Setter Cardigan by Dora Ohrenstein
(Scroll to the end of this post for the hook size needed and other details.)
Photo © 2014 Interweave Press.

I get to see my yarn brought to life by other designers, and then showcased in magazines! 

Dora Ohrenstein chose Lotus yarn for her retro-stripy "Pin-Setter Cardigan." It's in Crochetscene, a new special issue from Interweave Press currently on newsstands.
Pearly Pearl, Peachy Sheen, Sapphire

It's a fun chance for me to see the Pearly Pearl, Peachy Sheen, and Sapphire colors together in one sweater.

I still remember when I met Dora: we became friends when we sat next to each other in Lily Chin's Crochet Tips and Tricks class at a CGOA conference. That was in 2004, when we were both new designers. 

Ten years later I get to see Dora interpret her design sensibility with my first yarn, so it has special significance for me. I also love how this magazine issue fitted the design and yarn colors in its throwback bowling alley theme - especially the model's beehive hairdo!
Dora's original swatch in 
White Blaze, Teal Glimmer
Grenadine.

I'm grateful to the editor of Interweave's crochet magazines, Marcy Smith, for her interest in DesigningVashti.com Lotus yarn. Her encouragement means so much for a startup yarn company like meDoris Chan designed lace boxer shorts and long pants in Lotus yarn for the summer issue of Interweave Crochet magazine. (I have more to post about those later!) 
Doris used Pearly Pearl for the 
Gypsy Boxers (Ravelry link)
Photo © 2014 Interweave Press.

DesignersAnyone is welcome to submit design proposals using Lotus to Marcy. Not just Marcy! Other editors too! I'm not at liberty to give details yet, but I'll let you know when designs in Lotus appear in more magazines, and books... 

Can you imagine how immensely relieved I am to learn this? Designs using new yarns by new companies have a chance to be published in magazines. 

The Gypsy Pants in Satin Grey Lotus
(Ravelry design page) Photo © 2014 Interweave Press
As a crocheter, I'm glad too. I've been an avid crochet magazine reader (and collector!) for over ten years. I don't remember thinking much about the yarns used in the designs. If asked, I'd want to see a refreshing range of different yarns. 

One of my favorite Lotus colors: 
Satin Grey used for Gypsy Pants!
A familiar crochet stitch pattern can look so different sometimes, depending on the yarn, color, dyeing process, fiber content, thickness. Yarns can make the same design look different with a change in drape, stretch, luster.
For a polished summery drape that would also hold up to wear, Lotus is Doris' first choice for skirts and pants. For the lace shorts she used the same Pearly Pearl color that Dora did, and Satin Grey Lotus for the pants.

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This post is part of a series about what it's like to start my own yarn company, as a crochet designer. Here's the first post, where you can also see a list of the other ones in this series.

About the Pin-Setter Cardigan pattern in Crochetscene:
(For more, click here): A great first sweater project, this classic cardigan is worked top down with raglan sleeves. Stripes in alternating colors keep it interesting, and picots embellish two stripes.
Yarn DesigningVashti Lotus (52% cotton, 48% rayon; 256 yd [234 m]/3½ oz [100 g]): pearly pearl (A), 5 (6, 7, 8, 9) balls; sapphire (B), 2 (2, 2, 3, 3) balls; peachy sheen (C), 1 (1, 1, 2, 2) ball(s).
Hook Size D/3 (3.25 mm).

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

How (Not) to Sell New Yarn at a Crochet Conference

This post is the fifth installment in an ongoing series about an exclusive yarn I developed with my friend Doris Chan. This is the first postClick to go to the new tab I created about everything Lotus.
L to R: Kathryn White, Vashti,
Haley Zimmerman. Photo: Nancy Smith

 © 2014 Manchester NH


I've just returned from a spectacular crochet conference blow out! (The CGOA's's 20th annual Chain Link conference in Manchester NH, July 23-27 2014.)


This was the first crochet conference I've attended as a yarn company owner


It's the fifth one I've attended as a teacher. Six months or so of class prep led up to this event! I taught eighteen hours of six large classes in three days. It is a blur to me now.

I'm gently teasing myself with the title of this post. Throughout the conference I'd suddenly see this or that missed opportunity for my yarn and could only shake my head at myself.  For example:
  • I could have had a yarn sample or coupon or something in the goody bags!
    One of the printing pages I created
    of yarn labels ("ball bands")
    for 60 sample Lotus balls.
  • I could have printed up the simplest Lotus yarn thing for people to pick up from the info table at Registration. A ball band with a URL, a yarn snip, whatever, right? After all, I designed the yarn ball bands. I might think that's cool if a guild member I knew did that.
  • I could have shipped bags of Lotus to a market vendor! Wouldn't it be fun for Lotus to be a part of the market excitement? Plus, I'd have a booth number to tell all the people who asked about Lotus. 
In truth, a few "missed opportunities" occurred to me months before, and I had to set them aside as too complicated or impractical for this conference. Ship Lotus to a vendor? Well, this is wholesaling. My costs are not actually low enough yet for me to be able to wholesale Lotus. (By the way, another way of saying this is that the price of Lotus at my website is below full retail!)


Why not just bring an extra suitcase of Lotus and sell it in my hotel room, in class, or in the crochet lounge? 


Seems like an easy solution, doesn't it? Nope. Not only did I sign a contract prohibiting this, it's unwise. I wouldn't want to risk creating a bad impression of a seller or product instead of good.
I spy Lotus Snacks sample balls! You're
also seeing one of my favorite attendees,
Janet Bates, and part of the portable full
spectrum lamp she brings to conferences.
(Cropped close up of classroom photo by
Deb Seda © 2014, Manchester NH.)

As a guild member and attendee at fourteen of these conferences, I'm grateful for this rule. Who wants to be marketed to in classes and fellowship areas? We have the fun market for that.

As a teacher, dealing with commerce in a class is weirdly distracting. The "Class Angels" are angelic because they collect and track any materials fees so that I don't have to switch gears.


I DID actually have Lotus with me. Wait, what?


In each of my Tunisian lace classes I gave out "Lotus Snacks." (I loved being the yarn sponsor of my own classes!) I designed a special ball band for them (see photo above), and the way the band wrapped around them reminded me of cupcakes. My friend Linda helped me label them in my hotel room, which was fun. (See photo of Lotus sighting above.)  I'm lucky I even got them made, and I'm happy that I have none left over!

The Lotus in my project tote had crochet attached because I foolishly thought I might have time to sit and crochet at this conference.
Some Lotus Chips
& Charms patterns.

I did bring all Lotus Chips and Candied Charms to wear and display in classes. Amazing to think of it now but I could not get it together to wear them. Just too busy. I didn't even mention the love knot ones ("Lovebud Vines"). The event was truly a blur!

I did bring free color samples to give out. At some point I dimly thought, "I refuse to take these back home. Must give them out." A designer friend said, "Ooh! Is this your yarn? Can I use some for yarn bombing?" I just gave her the whole bag. Yes, this is what a maxed out Vashti does.

I DID bring an extra suitcase full of Lotus...in the form of visual aids for the six classes. I always bring lots of swatches and visual aids for classes; this year I crocheted a gazillion with Lotus. After all, it's Lotus that made me fall in love all over again with the Star stitch*.

OK so maybe I could have mentioned that it was Lotus that I was passing around in a class, but then if I'd done that, it might have sounded like advertising, and that's not what teaching is about anyway.

So Lotus did actually get to meet lots of old and new friends! What am I worried about?

Yarn marketing is like developing a new muscle - for me, anyway. I took plenty of notes about what I could do in the future. I'm planning to have my own booth at next year's crochet conference in San Diego!

*Star Stitch Class Resources page.

Issues #59 and #60 of Crochet Inspirations Newsletter: "Star Stitch Lace Pretties" and "Star Stitch, the Tunisian Connection."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Birth of a Yarn Company, About Five Months In

New: Please see the new tab I created about everything Lotus.This post is part of a series about my exclusive new yarn, developed together with my friend Doris Chan. For more on this series, see this first post.             
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I've only now felt like I could imagine blogging again about launching
A behind the scenes example
of a popular pattern, the
Pallas Scarf, redesigned in
Lotus yarn. (I'm updating
the pattern to include this
 new version.)
Lotus yarn! I last blogged about becoming a yarn company months ago. Those were no ordinary months: the big December shopping season followed by a milestone birthday, wedding anniversary, son's birthday, peak tourist season around here...blah blah blah.

Sounds like the usual stuff that can postpone blogging, but doesn't have to, right? It's also been a time of several unfamiliar - if mundane - procedures. 

At first, it didn't even occur to me to blog about them, but there's actually quite a lot going on under the surface!
I'm really happy with the clear
six-ball bags I use for storing 

the Lotus balls, but am
searching for a different source
with 
lower freight charges.

Here's just a partial list of new-to-me procedures that I already rejected as being too unremarkable to blog about:
  • How the Dymo printer I use for shipping has been working out. (It's fabulous! One of those simple things in life that makes me smile every day.)
  • The compact little shipping station I set up in my studio that accommodates a wildly unpredictable range of daily yarn orders from zero to a last-minute flood of them.
  • What "the last minute" really means - during peak tourist season especially...
  • How to store the yarn in a way that keeps it new yet easy to access (and what that means: no risk of squashing, abrasion, dust, you get the idea.)
  • Favorite label printer!
  • The best way to keep track of when we need to order another big batch from the mill.

A small Lotus package.
The self-seal "poly mailers"
I went with seem to be
working out very well, plus,
my mailman is impressed. 
Underneath these humdrum biznessy things is a nervous mixture of worry and excitement! It's just like being a new parent: what if something goes horribly wrong? Any minute I might...discover massive hidden costs I hadn't taken into account. What if everyone stops buying yarn forever? (That's kind of like, "What if my baby is kidnapped, or gets a terrible illness or something?")

I get it now: I'm a new "yarn parent." The first months of any newborn's life are eventful -- with seemingly mundane things (like choosing the best stroller), and I haven't been able to blog about it as often as I expected I would. Typical new parent talk, right? 

I'll never have a first yarn again. Isn't that something! Thanks for reading this and sharing a unique time with me as it unfolds. I'm probably going to enjoy reading this years from now.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Crochet Book Review: Fine Art of Crochet by Gwen Blakley Kinsler

The long-awaited Fine Art of Crochet by Gwen Blakley Kinsler is an important and exciting book. It's not only an essential addition to every crocheter's library, it's a must-read for the non-crocheting artists and art/craft critics who think they already know about crochet as a medium. 
Buy this book at Amazon.com.


An exciting element of this book for me is reading each professional artist's own words: the specifics of why s/he chooses it, and the lived experience of employing it for artistic expression--often over decades. Gwen allows each artist a considered, intimate, introspective space. I've gained insights that are going to enrich my own crocheting experiences. These windows into the artists' process leave me feeling a kinship with them. I will hear their voices now (along with my mother's, who taught me) as I crochet.

Gwen's book is a gift and a valuable reference. We get to see the big picture of how crochet is breaking new ground -- and has been all along

I like to read theoretical and historical material about art world issues, such as "Fine Art" versus "Craft" (etc.) and I usually have to mentally include crochet as I read about the significance of weaving, sculpture, art quilts, etc. Fine Art of Crochet fills in gaps!

Part of the thrill of knowing how to crochet is sensing the incredible potential built into even the most basic crochet stitches. We know that each new crocheter has the tools to create anything and we know what that feels like! I see this look dawn on the faces of students and I hear it in comments like, "With crochet you can just turn and make stitches go anywhere any time." I heard this same idea in some of the reasons why seasoned professional artists also choose crochet as their medium.

An unexpected benefit of reading this book for me is a nuanced sense of the birth of the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA). Gwen, who founded the CGOA in 1994, was spearheading crochet art exhibits in CGOA's earliest days. I'd heard about these events over the years, but seeing a full recounting of them in the fuller context of this book gives them, and Gwen, the credit due. Yet another reason to celebrate the guild's 20th anniversary this year!

If you like to think about the creative possibilities of crochet, see how crochet has been breaking new ground right under our noses all this time, and want hints to crochet's future, get this book. I found out about classes these crochet artists have been teaching that I didn't know about, and modern crochet art happenings. 
Gwen (right) & Vashti (left) February 2014


Thank you, Gwen! Fine Art of Crochet fills in the sometimes huge gaps in the existing literature about modern developments in art and craft, while serving as a road map for crocheters and others to the ongoing crochet revolution. 
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Edited to add: Holy cow, now go check out this image-heavy review. Love it!